“Keep pumping your arms, Joe. Legs up and squeezed together. Shoulder blades on your back. Keep that pelvis on the mat. Belly button in and up. That’s it.”
The hard-bodied, diminutive instructor, Monique Weevers, rattles off the technique for a Joseph Pilates sit-up called the “hundred.” We all gamely follow. More or less. OK, I’m a bit on the less side.
But we all keep pumping. Our stomachs start rebelling. But we keep pumping. Our legs start dropping. Yup, we’re still pumping over here. Am I going to get sick? Pump, pump, pump. Maybe.
Suddenly, Monique says firmly, “Enough!”
It’s almost said with disgust. “Enough!” To do one more pump would be not only too much but would be ethically inappropriate. It would be immoral. “Enough!” We have done all we should do. We have obtained our goal. Anything else is excessive, unbalanced, over the top. “It is simply enough to do 100,” Monique says with a smile. “101 is one too many.”
“Enough” is hard for most of us. I myself am the poster child of too much. I always feel if I do just a little more it will be the secret to staving off old age, or finding fame, or solving the answer to world peace. This isn’t rocket science. One more whatever will finally get us all the love we deserve. It’s a little sad, a little pathetic, but a lot true.
The Louvre is a massive museum in Paris. Its collection of art is so large and covers so much territory, it is impossible to even get through all the collection when laid out in a book, let alone see it all in one visit. But it has highlights. Certain art that is world-famous. Things you have to see. A bucket list.
“The Winged Victory of Somothrace” is one of those pieces. Majestic, gigantic, billowing, moving and sensual, even when trapped inside the Louvre. Amazing.
Of course, I can barely see it through all the cameras and phones and iPads. Hands are raised high, devices are gripped tightly, pictures are focused, tiny screens light up, buttons are pressed, images are collected, Instagrams are sent. And then everyone races to the next room. “Quick, snap a photo of that painting. All right, don’t forget a photo of the artist’s name. Yikes, we are falling behind. Get over to that painting. Hurry. Snap a photo.”
And over and over. Thousands of pictures.
Eventually, we all come to the “Mona Lisa.” Ah, the frenzy is at its height.
Cameras are imploding with excitement. At last, a photograph of the “Mona Lisa.” The thrill is too much.
See what I’m talking about, folks?
We can’t get enough pictures. None of us can. We race around our life collecting images: there I am in the meeting at work — now I’m picking up my kids from school — here we are at the dance recital — wow, I just kissed my partner — ah, time to take out the trash. Snap, snap, snap, snap, snap. Yup, I have all those images. I’ve collected all those photos. Let’s race on to the next image. The next photo. The next event. The next whatever.
I always hated art. My wife would make me go to museums over the years. I’d pout. I’d complain. I’d drag my feet. I’d poke fun at what I thought were pretentious people looking at old pictures that obviously meant nothing to anyone. As my wife correctly says, I was a reverse snob. And that was a kind way to put it. I was a first-class jerk.
Somewhere along the line, however, I stumbled upon a little secret. I would stand in front of a painting and look for a way to get inside the picture. Usually, that meant an open door, way in the back of the painting, that went into a kitchen. Or a window, off to the left, that looked out over the town. Or a distant road that I could follow up to the village. Or the reflection of a light in the wine glass that showed another room behind the still life. So I would go to that tiny spot and make my way back into the picture. The picture became real. The picture became full of emotion and feeling. The picture lived. And that was enough for that visit to the museum. One great experience. One painting. Enough.
What’s my point?
Listen, do your holiday lists. Go to your parties. Buy all the gifts. Bake those holiday goodies. But, perhaps, as you are gently guiding your kid’s hands as he stamps out a snowman cookie, you might say to yourself, “This image, this snapshot of my life, this small slice of time full of tenderness and love, is special. It is enough.”
And it is enough. Trust me.
As for the hundred, I’m going to tell Monique that’s 99 too many. ♦
Joe Weeg spent 31 years as a prosecutor for the Polk County Attorney’s Office. Now retired, his wife is once again assisting in the prosecution of war criminals in the Netherlands. He writes about being an Iowan in Europe on his blog at www.joesneighborhood.com.